[Dixielandjazz] Music and Mourning

Elazar Brandt jazzmin at actcom.net.il
Fri Mar 21 01:56:54 PST 2003

Well, Jim, I wouldn't be too quick to compare Judaism with the Islam of Hussein, Arafat, Bin Laden and their ilk. The more I learn
about Judaism, the more I find there usually is some method to the (sometimes apparent) madness.

I myself am not sure whether the prohibition of listening to music during the year following the loss of a loved one is a law or a
custom. The difference is that customs are not mandatory, although some have almost the force of laws because they are so widely
practiced, like wearing a yarmulke. As a professional musician in Israel, I should really know more about this. The ins and outs are
really interesting, but perhaps not within the scope of DJML topics of discussion. I'm trying to stick with comments that might
relate to anyone who performs with or for religious Jews, and I think that's fair game for the list.

For example, a friend of mine married an Israeli girl, and her mother died quite unexpectedly from pneumonia 2 weeks before the
wedding. Because making joy for the bride and groom is a commandment, and therefore an obligation, while the mourning over the loss
of an immediate family member is also obligatory, the rabbi permitted music at the reception, but not dancing. The music was toned
down, not morbid but less upbeat than usual. The klezmer trio they hired set an excellent tone. It was a heart-wrenching affair. The
bride and her father cried through most of the ceremony. We all wanted to be there for the family. They could have postponed the
wedding (an impractical option, and as they say, not what the mother would have wanted), or treated it as though nothing had
happened and do a full bore celebration (rather impossible for people with hearts and souls), or treated the wedding as an extension
of the funeral and had no music or dancing or celebration, also not a good option. I thought the way it was done was a reasonable

I have no argument with you about the healing power of music. I can tell you that Judaism associates music with joy. It also
recognizes that there is music for the purpose of lamenting. I'm not sure if lamenting music is any more permissible than joyful
music during mourning periods. The religious issue is over the inappropriate mixing of joy and sorrow. I would like to know more
about this, both religiously and musically. I believe the rabbis would say that their concern is that one process his grief and not
bury it. They don't arrest you for this, or cut your ears off, or anything like that. It's not an easy call. I sometimes have to
decide what is appropriate to play downtown after a terror attack. People respond to these things differently. Helping people to
deal with death is one of the things religions do, or are supposed to do.

On the lighter side, as I wrote off-list to one listmate, we have certain times during the year when it is a custom, but not a law,
not to listen to music, because they are considered mourning times. When I perform during these times, I tell my audience that my
rabbi says I'm allowed to play because it is part of my livelihood, but they are not allowed to listen. Or alternatively, they are
allowed to listen, but they are not permitted to enjoy it. It usually gets a good laugh.

Anyway, I think if the war effort succeeds in taking out Saddam or Osama, the rabbis might agree to temporarily suspend the
prohibition against dancing at funerals. Meanwhile, playing jazz in their faces is the best offence I can think of. I will try to
get a picture of my band playing with gas masks on. If I succeed, I'll post it on my web site and let you know when it's there.

May we have many reasons to celebrate and not many to mourn,

Misrad HaJazz
Doctor Jazz Band
Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: +972-2-679-2537
  -----Original Message-----
  From: JimDBB at aol.com [mailto:JimDBB at aol.com]
  Sent: Thursday, 20 March, 2003 05:13
  To: dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com
  Subject: Re: [Dixielandjazz] Music and Mourning

     *the adults can't listen to music for the first year of mourning?  that is really bizarre.  there is great healing power in
music and to be denied that is cruel and insane.  Truly, religious insanity is responsible for most of the trouble in this world.

    good luck, El.

     Jim Beebe
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